Literacy Tips

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of April 23rd

posted Apr 22, 2017, 2:48 PM by Courtney Richardson

Tell students what they are learning and how it will help the them

Remember to tell students what they are learning at the beginning of the guided reading lesson. For example: Say, “Readers make inferences as they read. An inference is using clues from the text and adding what you already know to make an educated guess. At the end of the lesson, say, “What did you learn today that will help you be a better reader?”

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of April 16th

posted Apr 16, 2017, 7:45 PM by Courtney Richardson

Engage Readers in Conversation!

It is essential for students to regularly engage in an intentional conversation about what they have read during guided reading. Align the discussion with the selected comprehension strategy. Use Jan’s Discussion Starters to jump-start the conversation. Ensure all students, including striving, advanced, and dual language learners (DLLs) contribute. (Be sure to praise students for their contributions!) Increase and extend comprehension by engaging readers in strategic discussions. Based on my experience, this is a win-win situation for students and teachers! 

Written by: Carolyn Gwinn, Ph.D., Author and Educational Consultant, Next Steps Guided Reading cell: 612-720-5334

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of April 9th

posted Apr 9, 2017, 6:29 PM by Courtney Richardson

Making the Most of Running Records: Purpose and Professional Judgment

Many of the questions I receive about Scholastic’s Next Step Guided Reading Assessment (Richardson & Walther, 2013) lead me back to pondering the purpose of a running record. In an effort to clarify the purpose, I went back to the expert, Marie Clay. In her book Running Records for Classroom Teachers (Heinemann, 2000, pp. 3-4), she helps to explain the purpose of conducting an assessment of text reading and the importance of our sound professional judgment.

Purposes for Taking Running Records

Assess a student’s text reading.

• Gather evidence of how well a reader is directing his or her knowledge of letters, sounds, and words to understand the messages in the text. Teachers can think about the things that challenged the reader and what the child does with the information he or she gains from the print.

• Guide teaching.Notice what the reader already knows, attended to,and/or overlooked. With this information, teachers can prompt, support, and challenge individual learners.

Determine text difficulty.Teachers can check whether a text is at a suitable level of challenge for the reader.

Capture progress.Teachers can make sound judgment about a reader’s progress through a gradient of difficulty in texts.

What I notice when I reread these purposes is that they are all related to understanding the READER, not assessing the TEACHER or the TEACHING.

Written by: Maria Walther, 1st Grade Teacher, Aurora, IL

Follow Maria on Twitter @mariapwalther

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of April 2nd

posted Apr 1, 2017, 12:46 PM by Courtney Richardson   [ updated Apr 9, 2017, 6:30 PM ]

Read the Running Record Out Loud! 

This is the time of the year when we begin to predict where students will be at the end of the school year. Teams meet to look at data walls. Administrators ask us questions about what we’re doing to help those students who seem to be treading water. We discuss possible interventions. The days are flying by, and we wonder if we’re doing enough. We’ve all been there, asking ourselves, “What else can we do?”

One idea is to analyze running records -- out loud. Take a running record on students who are not progressing? Instead of scoring them, analyze the child’s processing by verbalizing what the child is doing at difficulty. This can help clarify your thinking.

Say out loud exactly what you think the child is doing. Is the student constructing meaning when he or she makes an error? How do you know? Is there evidence the student is self-monitoring? What strategic actions does the student take to solve unknown words? Reread pages 108–109 in Next Step Forward in Guided Reading for Jan’s thoughts about using running records to inform your guided reading instruction.

A core principle of Reading Recovery is to focus on what the reader can do. At the top of the running record write three things the child can do. Now write three things he or she needs to learn next. Share these with your teammates. Ask your team for suggestions. 

I have used this process successfully with teams and individual teachers. Give it a try. Thinking out loud can help us discover how to move students forward.

Written by: Ellen Lewis, Reading Teacher and Next Steps Guided Reading Consultant,

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of March 26th

posted Mar 27, 2017, 7:00 PM by Courtney Richardson   [ updated Apr 9, 2017, 6:30 PM ]

Don’t Be Fooled: Accurate Word Recognition DOESN’T Equal Comprehension              

Many think that comprehension is the natural by-product of accurate word recognition. Just because students can read the words doesn’t imply that they are understanding what they read. Many students in classrooms across the USA are given comprehension assignments, mainly through responding to questions. But these activities are void of instruction on how to comprehend using the critical strategies. Comprehension can be taught through interactive read-alouds as well as during guided reading instruction.  

Character analysis is a powerful means for teaching students to make inferences.  During training, we examine the pages in Jan’s book for techniques to support the teaching of character analysis. I model for the teachers, we do it together, then teachers apply these techniques to text they are using with students. 

Rereading is a powerful contributor to comprehension. Reading material once for the gist is parallel to writing a first draft. Rereading is the process that contributes to developing deeper understanding. Expect students to reread a guided reading text as a meaningful follow-up task. You are helping them strengthen their comprehension. 

Written by: Sophie Kowzun, page turner consulting,

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of March 19th

posted Mar 19, 2017, 4:34 PM by Courtney Richardson   [ updated Apr 9, 2017, 6:31 PM ]

Getting the Power out of Guided Writing               

Guided writing is an important part of successful guided reading lessons. Having students write about a story they have read, increases comprehension and gives teachers the opportunity to teach appropriate writing skills. Before guided writing, collect a short writing sample from each student in the group. Use the Target Skills for Transitional Writers on pages 208-209 of Next Step Forward in Guided Reading, to analyze each student’s writing and select a focus for instruction. Select one target skill for each student and write it on a sticky note. Place the sticky note in the guided writing journals so you and the students have a specific writing goal for the lesson. It is quite possible that each of the students in your group will have a different writing skill focus. Often teachers try to “fix” everything during guided writing. By focusing on one targeted skill, teachers can narrow their focus and students can work towards autonomy in one area. Once that targeted skill focus is solidified, students are ready to move to the next targeted writing skill. You will be amazed how your laser tight writing focus will transfer to their independent writing.  

Written by: Karen Cangemi, Reading Specialist, Pinellas County School District, FL,

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of March 12th

posted Mar 12, 2017, 10:28 AM by Courtney Richardson   [ updated Apr 9, 2017, 6:31 PM ]

Tackling the Comprehension Demands of the New Standards 

In chapter 7 of Next Step Forward in Guided Reading, Jan provides a detailed, teacher-friendly explanation of the most effective comprehension strategies. With the increase in rigor associated with the new state standards, students are expected to apply comprehension strategies at earlier reading levels than what we were ever accustomed to. Younger children - and especially struggling readers - need instruction with comprehension strategies early on, so they can continue to build and strengthen their foundational reading skills. Readers at all levels need a toolbox of comprehension strategies to help them continue to be successful readers ~ Voila! ~ we have Jan’s comprehension scaffolding cards. They can be found in the appendix of The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading, on this site’s Resources page, or you can purchase the Comprehension Card Box from Pioneer Valley Books ( 

In over 205 research studies, there is strong evidence that the teaching of the comprehension strategies impacts reading achievement (Shannon, 2010, So turn on your printer, grab your cardstock, and get ready to make your comprehension scaffolding cards – YOUR teacher toolbox for comprehension success!

Written by: Julie Allsworth, “Next Steps” Guided Reading Consultant,;

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of March 5th

posted Mar 6, 2017, 11:18 AM by Courtney Richardson   [ updated Apr 9, 2017, 6:32 PM ]

Creating Flexible Thinkers Using Short Text

To support flexible thinking with fluent readers, use the same short text to teach different comprehension strategies. First, choose two comprehension strategies from Chapter 7 in The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading. Then select a short text with few decoding challenges. The goal is to teach strategic thinking - not decoding. If you have to drop a level to make the reading easier, do so. You will use the same text over two days. On Day 1, students independently read the text for surface understanding. Next, use the comprehension cards and introduce the first of your chosen strategies. Comprehension cards can be found on the resource page of this website or on the online resources of Next Step Forward in Guided Reading (NSFGR). For example, you might choose Module 11 -VIP Nonfiction (pg. 268 NSFGR) on Day 1. After you model the strategy, have students practice it on the text. Then tell the students they will be reading the same passage tomorrow but changing their thinking strategy. On Day 2 introduce a second comprehension strategy. Perhaps you use Module 12- Turning Headings Into Questions (pg. 269), or Module 25 – Key Word Summary (pg. 282). At the end of Day 2, review both comprehension strategies. Tell students why they are practicing different strategies on the same text – you are showing them how they can be flexible thinkers! Explain how thinking differently about the same text will deepen their comprehension. Sources for short texts include:  



Written by: Ellen Lewis, Reading Teacher and Next Steps Guided Reading Consultant

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of February 26th

posted Feb 26, 2017, 12:54 PM by Courtney Richardson   [ updated Apr 9, 2017, 6:33 PM ]

Attend to the Details of Comprehension Instruction

Teachers of transitional and fluent readers often struggle with teaching comprehension during the guided reading lesson. The first challenge is to identify a focus. Understanding that self-monitoring is the very first comprehension strategy to teach, I follow it with visualizing and self-questioning. These three strategies seem to be easiest for teachers to implement and most valuable for readers to use. When I conduct workshops, I first model specific comprehension strategies and provide guided practice before I have teachers apply one of the comprehension strategies to the text they plan to use with a group of readers. 

Knowing how to chunk the text is another challenge. Some teachers have students read huge sections of text without asking students to stop to reflect on their thinking. I show teachers how to chunk text into smaller segments and then have students write short responses that connect to the comprehension focus. Getting readers to stop, think, and jot helps them reflect on their reading. 

Making inferences through analysis of characters has such power. Jan's professional text provides suggestions and graphic organizers to help teachers with this instruction. I model it, we do it together, and then teachers have an opportunity to apply it during the planning session.

Improve your comprehension instruction by attending to these details!

Written by: Sophie Kowzun

Page Turner Consulting

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of February 19th

posted Feb 20, 2017, 4:57 PM by Courtney Richardson

Can whole-group instruction take the place of guided reading?

I totally endorse and encourage whole-class reading instruction, but I don’t think it can take the place of guided reading. There is a seductive efficiency to whole-class instruction that says we can save time by giving every child the same lesson. The reality, however, is that the few children who respond appropriately may be "getting it," but the others are not. Even those who respond correctly during the read aloud may have problems transferring that strategy to a text they read independently. Guided reading is the bridge between whole-class instruction and independent processing. I recommend that teachers model a comprehension strategy with a read aloud or short text during whole-class instruction, and then thread that strategy into guided reading while the children are doing most of the work -- not the teacher. Whole-class instruction can never achieve the differentiation and scaffolding that is present during a teacher-led guided reading lesson.

1-10 of 99